Californians are casting ballots next week on a proposition to legalize limited use of marijuana.
Legalize it? That is the question for Californians set to vote on a measure that would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana.
Proposition 19 would make it legal for anyone over age 21 to possess, share or transport up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use...and use up to 25 square feet to cultivate marijuana plants.
Cities and counties would regulate and tax marijuana production and sales...creating a windfall of millions of dollars for the state's cash-strapped treasury.
It's a plan that would also cut costs by keeping users out of prison, says California resident Lisa Grant.
SOUNDBITE (English) CALIFORNIA RESIDENT LISA GRANT SAYING:
"Well it will obviously help the state budget significantly and decriminalize...We're wasting way too much money on things that should not be crimes and housing people with overcrowding in prisons, it's just ridiculous. And putting non-violent offenders in (jail) is ridiculous."
But law enforcement officials argue Proposition 19 will create new health care costs...and a beaurocratic mess.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.
SOUNDBITE (English) LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF LEE BACA SAYING:
"It's the health care costs that are going to skyrocket and they're already too high for alcoholism and every other kind of addiction that Americans have. Now we want to legitimzie one and then we want to say that 500 municipalities can decide how this will be done. So there's really no standard.
California was the first American state to allow medical marijuana sales in 1996.
If voters choose to legalize it in November, a legal challenge from the federal government will likely follow...in part because marijuana prices would plummet, prompting dealers to buy in California and sell elsewhere for much more money.
An ounce of marijuana bought on the black market costs around 300 dollars. Under Proposition 19, that legal ounce is estimated to cost around 40 dollars.